Should You Take Your Own Passport Photos?

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Hint: None of these are going to meet passport photo requirements, although we did eventually get the winner out of our constantly moving three-year-old. Photos: Ruth Suehle

We’re rapidly approaching the end of school and the beginning of the summer travel season. For some of you, that means your kids will need their first passports–or new ones, which for kids is like getting a new one.

Not only does my son need one, but I completely forgot that passports expire in five years when issued to kids 15 and younger, unlike the adult ones, which last ten. That means my daughter needs one, too. And since both parents have to be with the kid applying for a passport, that means a family field trip during business hours to the post office.

Tacking on an extra field trip to get passport photos first doesn’t sound like fun. Fortunately in the era of digital cameras and cheap photo printing, it’s not hard to do it yourself.

The passport photo requirements are clear:

  • 2″x2″
  • Top of hair to bottom of chin must be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches
  • From eye height to the bottom of the photo must be between 1 1/8 inches and 1 3/8 inches
  • White background
  • Full-face
  • Neutral expression
  • Eyes open
  • No hat, headphones, sunglasses
  • No glare

And doing it yourself is cheap. For comparison, here are prices for a few places you can go to have them done (each is for two photos, which is how many you must send with the passport application):


 Place Price $7.99
 CVS $7.99
 Walgreens $9.99
Costco $4.99


I was initially intrigued by, which promises on its homepage to help crop your photos to the appropriate size through either a free service or a full service “starting from only $0.99/photo,” also promising a 99% approval rate. The reality is that after uploading and cropping your photos, you’re told how to pay, with $7.99 for two photos and options for 4 or 8 photos. They make the free option exceptionally obscure. If you notice the “No thanks” text at the lower right, you can click it to download your image for free. But then you’re asked to like ePassportPhoto on Facebook to be allowed to download them. Below the image there is tiny text that says, “Do not have a Facebook account? Skip to download your photo sheet now.” So it’s certainly possible–or you could just open your favorite image editing program and do it yourself.

I’ve read mixed results on message boards about the results of DIY passport photos. A few people say they have had them rejected and that you should just go pay for it. Personally I’ve done them seven times without any rejections yet (fingers crossed that I didn’t just jinx this round). And there are people who say their drugstore photos were rejected as well. Of course none of these posts ever come with the actual photos, so it’s hard to judge.

My recommendation is two-fold. The first part is that you should always have a passport so that you won’t have to get one in a rush–or so that if you win a trip or your boss asks you to go to a conference on the other side of the planet, you’re always ready to go. The second is that that means you have time to give it a shot at doing your passport photos on your own and saving a few bucks, not to mention the possibility of having to fight a screaming toddler in the drugstore. You can do it on your kids’ time when they’re in a good mood and ready to be cooperative.

Or you could be me, needing to get the passports for the kids in a hurry–resulting at the pictures at the top of this post. I still opted to do them myself because it’s worked fine in the past. But if you’re not confident in your photography skills, paying a few extra dollars might be worth it.

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5 thoughts on “Should You Take Your Own Passport Photos?

  1. We did the picture ourselves when my 2 year old was a baby as taking a baby to a drugstore to get a picture done didn’t sound to realistic, I think we took about 100 pictures trying to get a 2 month old in the right position with his eyes open and no shadows! The best thing is he looks nothing like that now and will be able to travel on his passport for another 3 years!
    We are planning on trying our own pictures again with our other son but he will be a bit old when we need to take them, not sure if that will make it easier or harder.

  2. We took the pictures for both our sons, one was taken at five months, the other at two weeks old. When they turn five I think they’ll be old enough to have it done professionally and I won’t trust the passport office to be so forgiving. I think they know how difficult kids are to capture in a precise shot, and have a little leniency that fades with age. We always have ours taken but it’s always last minute so we pay $15 for two or four depending on where we manage to get in. I miss the old photo booths in England of my childhood, one pound ($1.50) for four shots!

    1. I did not know about the wizard! But perhaps that’s because I’m a /DIY geek/. 🙂

      And even with the three-year-old, on the back was the best solution. That’s definitely what we did when the other one was younger.

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